How To Navigate Office Relationships

by / ⠀Career Advice Entrepreneurship / November 17, 2013

Office Relationships 

During your free time, you catch up with friends, have lunch with your family, and go on dates with your significant other. But when you open the office door, it’s already a different world. You also establish relationships inside the workplace whether you like it or not and you will have to deal with them every day.

Office relationships are part of everyday human interaction. The people inside the workplace will affect how you perform your daily duties, so it’s a must to know what types of relationships exist and be informed on how to handle them.


Some bosses can be extremes—there’s the terrorizing type and the too-friendly type. Both can make the employee feel uncomfortable and have an effect to their self-worth.

The former uses his position to overpower the employee.  A good leader points out the wrongs of their employees and corrects behavior with the aim of improving the quality of work, but a bossy leader points them out just to boost his ego. The latter uses his leader-status to impose that he’s the one in-charge and that they should follow everything he says.

A boss that’s too friendly, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He uses his superiority to ask employees to do personal favors or put them in a position where they can’t refuse. His friendliness extends to inviting an employee for dinner—just the two of them and asking an employee to “drop the ‘sir’.”

Having either type as a boss is enough to create a short horror story. You will feel uneasy at work, spend the whole day trying not to make a move that will attract their attention, while juggling all the task you need to finish. What you need to do is to stand up for yourself and set boundaries. It doesn’t matter whether he’s the highest authority in the company or your immediate head. Learn to say no when you feel like you’re violated. Reason out, but never raise your voice. You can still accept invitations from your boss out of courtesy but make sure that other employees are invited as well. 

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Office Romance

Spending eight or more hours a day with co-workers is a highly conducive environment for  romance.  They help you when you are having a hard time doing a task, offer you a ride home during overtimes, or simply hang-out during breaks. While there’s nothing really wrong with engaging in a romantic relationship with an officemate, it can be a distraction and attract unnecessary gossip especially if you’re in the same department.

When misunderstanding gets between them or when the relationship fails, the whole team is affected. The couple will lose focus in their work and it can decrease their productivity. Their colleagues will also have a hard time since these two people can’t work together in a project making it harder to produce good projects.

Also, office affairs aren’t for people who have existing relationships outside work and especially not for married men and women. To avoid being the talk of the town, stay away from flirting and giving mixed signals.

If you can’t avoid engaging in a romantic relationship within work hours, it is best to stay discreet. Display of affection is frowned upon in any public place and the office is not an exemption.  Spend breaks together instead and then focus back to work.


Nepotism is favoring a family member over other employees for a position. It basically refers to two or more family members working closely with each other which can lower the morale of other workers. Some companies prohibit hiring current employee’s relatives even if they’re qualified because of the issue of inequality and discrimination. It can facilitate jealousy among coworkers and ignite misunderstanding inside the office.

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This kind of relationship still exists between a boss and an appointed employee who share the same bloodline. It can have a negative effect on the credibility of the boss who should treat those under him without favoritism. His decision-making skills will be questioned and garner disrespect from other employees.

Nepotism can also affect the “favored” employee. He will be singled out by his coworkers and will become the subject of rumors that he only got in because he’s the nephew of the boss or the HR’s cousin. It will be also hard for him to foster a good working relationship with his peers since he will be seen as a “spy” whose loyalty lies with the boss.

For both the boss and employee, it’s better to have no interaction with his relative inside the workplace. He shouldn’t have direct access to the personal and office records, have intimate conversations with, and influence on the employee’s promotion.

Workplace cliques

Since cubicles and work stations sit close to each other, making friends with officemates is as easy as 1,2,3. You need somebody to talk when work gets stressful and discuss matters you can’t confide to your boss. It’s good to have friends inside the workplace but becoming too close-knit will shoo away your co-workers who would love to share the same table with your office clique.

Gossiping is not good practice especially when the topic is about the person sitting in the next cubicle or badmouthing your boss behind his back. Have conversations regarding general topics instead like the latest movie or the new restaurant you should check out for lunch.

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You could be the target of office gossip next time so it’s best to not divulge any secret that could ruin your reputation. Also, just because they’re you’re friends doesn’t mean you have to tolerate their mistakes. Talk to them when you think they’re not performing their duties well and help them do a task, not do it for them. Be professional and remember that even friendship has boundaries and that it should be separated from work.

Are you engaged in any of these office relationships? How do you deal with them? Tell us!

Eunisse C. De Leon is a Marketing writer. Outside the profession, she’s an animal-rights advocate and a fan of Asian culture. Follow her on twitter @eunissedeleon

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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